Lee Stempniak is getting comfortable playing on a line with Jeff Skinner and Victor Rask.
Elias Lindholm is getting comfortable playing center on a line with Teuvo Teravainen and Sebastian Aho.
These are good things for the Carolina Hurricanes, who will play their final preseason exhibition game Friday at PNC Arena against the Washington Capitals. The Canes are after a stronger start this season, and having the lines set could be a key component to doing that.
“It’s good to try different lines in the preseason,” Lindholm said. “Hopefully we’re ready for the season now.”
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Stempniak, who came to Carolina this year as a free agent, has quickly fit in on the right wing with Rask in the middle and Skinner on the left side. Lindholm, drafted as a center in 2013, has been used mostly on the wing his first three NHL seasons but has made the move to center.
“It’s not that big an adjustment and I’m looking forward to it,” Lindholm said. “Playing with these two Finns, it’s pretty easy for me. I can play my game and let them play their game. Just be solid and when I have some chances, to score some goals, too.”
In the Canes’ 3-2 preseason win Wednesday over the Buffalo Sabres in Sault Set. Marie, Ont., a nice move and pass by Teravainen led to a goal by Lindholm.
“He’s really skilled,” Lindholm said. “He’s a good addition for us and should be good on the power play and five-on-five.”
Aho, 19, was in the Finnish Elite League the past two seasons and will be an NHL rookie. Lindholm said he watched some of the games Aho played for Finland in the 2016 World Junior Championship, World Championship and then the recent World Cup, getting a feel for his game before training camp.
“I knew he was a really good player,” Lindholm said. “There’s a lot of talent there. The sky’s the limit for him. I will just try to help him and push him to play his game. He can be really good.”
Stempniak, 33, has gone through a lot of linemates in the NHL. The key to fitting in quickly, he said, is to “figure out how to play my game and play to my strengths and complement the other two guys.”
Stempniak, who played with the New Jersey Devils and then Boston Bruins last season, said he has considered Skinner mostly a “shoot-first” player but has changed his opinion after being on Skinner’s line.
“He still does shoot, which is a great thing, and creates a lot when he’s not scoring with those rebounds, the opportunities to get second and third chances,” Stempniak said. “He’s good playmaker. He’s able to hang on to the puck a lot and when he’s able to hang on to the puck a lot of things open up. He really extends the possessions with his strength on the puck.”
Stempniak called Rask a complete player, able to provide offense while solid in the defensive zone and in the faceoff circle.
“Those are great centers to play with as a winger, a guy who’s able to be good defensively, get the puck out of their end and transition the other way,” Stempniak said. “He’s a real heady player. I think all three of us think the game pretty well.”
Stempniak and Skinner got the assists on the Canes’ first goal Wednesday as Stempniak set up defenseman Roland McKeown for a shot.
Canes coach Bill Peters could change up the lines before the season-opener next week against the Winnipeg Jets. But chances are the Rask line and Lindholm lines will get a look, at least early in the season.
“It’ll all come together in the end,” Peters said.